Healing Prayer (seventh installment)

Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16:20)

The palsied man let down through the roof, James Tissot, 1886-96

In my previous post I noted that Scripture indicates Jesus healed everyone who came to him for healing.  Sometimes Jesus asked the sick person whether he believed Jesus was able to heal him (Matthew 9:27-34); on other occasions Jesus asked the person who came to him for healing to state specifically what he wanted Jesus to do for him (Mark 10: 46-52).  In one instance, Jesus healed a man whose friends asked for healing on his behalf (Luke 5:18-26) and in another, he invited a woman who had not asked to be healed to approach him in order to receive healing (Luke 10-13).  However, in the majority of healing stories, Jesus simply heals without discussion (Matthew 8:16-17).

It is important to note that the healings and other miracles Jesus performed were not done in isolation from his ministry of preaching and teaching.  In fact, Jesus often healed people while he was in the midst of teaching about God’s kingdom (Luke 6:18-19; 9:11).  His core message was this: The time has come.  The kingdom of God has come near.  Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).  One of the things Scripture tells us about life in God’s kingdom is that sin and sickness have no place there (Isaiah 33:24).  So when he healed the sick and forgave sinners their sins, Jesus was offering proof his message was trustworthy and that through him the kingdom of God had arrived.

The prophet Isaiah provides insight into what life will be like when the Messiah comes and inaugurates God’s kingdom.  When handed the scroll of Isaiah on a Sabbath day in a synagogue in Nazareth Jesus chose to read aloud the following verses: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” When he had finished reading,he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus unrolls the book in the synagogue; James Tissot, 1886-94

By reading aloud these verses, Jesus claimed for himself the title of Messiah — and he went forth from there to do the very things Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would do.  He preached the good news about God’s kingdom, called people to repent and believe, and healed those who had come to be relieved of their suffering.  So as he healed, he was confirming as true and reliable all that he was proclaiming about the arrival of his Father’s kingdom.

Jesus also commissioned his followers to preach the same message and to heal.  The evangelist Luke writes, “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (9:1-2)  Jesus gave his apostles both the right (authority) and the might (power) over demons and diseases.  What this means, from the perspective of prayer for healing, is that disease is something that must be overpowered and one must have the authority to do so.  The apostles had no power or authority of their own to do these things.  They received directly from Jesus such authority and power and they were to use it by going forth to preach and cure in his name.  The charge Jesus gives them – to proclaim the good news – is accompanied by a charge to demonstrate it by healing and overcoming demonic opposition.

In turn, his apostles commissioned leaders in the early church to go out and do the same – and this commissioning and sending forth continue to this day through the ministries of those who are ordained to church leadership.  Clergy are to preach the good news and to provide evidence that God’s kingdom has come through Jesus Christ by healing in his name, with the power and authority that comes from him.

However, this ministry of proclaiming and healing is also available to every Christian, not just those who are ordained.  Scripture tells us that after commissioning the apostles, The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.  He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”(Luke 10:1, 9)

What this means, from the perspective of prayer for healing, is that disease is something that must be overpowered and one must have the authority to do so.

Jesus enlarged the pool of “workers” to include many others and they, too, were sent to preach and to heal.  What this passage says to me is that anyone who follows Jesus today can be used by him to proclaim the good news and to heal in his name.  One does not need to be ordained in order to lay hands on people and pray for healing.  The ministry of proclaiming the good news and demonstrating it through healing is available to any Christian, through the Holy Spirit.

Healing is always about demonstrating the good news that the kingdom of God has come, through Jesus Christ – and the pattern Jesus and his followers set for all Christians shows that preaching should never be separated from healing.

Next time: So why do we preach today without also praying for healing?

About Claudia Dickson Greggs

I am an Anglican priest, author, wife and mother. Writing and teaching about Christian life and faith are passions of mine.
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2 Responses to Healing Prayer (seventh installment)

  1. Rick says:

    This is spot on, Claudia! Not that I would expect it to be otherwise. 😉

    I have been studying this very thing since starting to read NT Wright’s books, and am seeing more and more that exactly what you say here is very true.

    Definitely looking forward to your next installment! 🙂

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